The Wall Street Journal reported that anomalysix, an American company, has embedded its software development kit into many mobile applications to track the location of hundreds of millions of mobile phones around the world. At the same time, the company resells the information to the U.S. government without the user’s knowledge.
according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal on the 7th, court records and interviews conducted by the newspaper showed that anomalysix was created by two people who undertook the creation of defense contracts, and spent most of their career working closely with U.S. government agencies. Marketing materials show that the company has been able to obtain user location data from more than 500 mobile applications, some of which are implemented by embedding its software development kit into mobile applications. Mobile app developers usually allow third-party companies to embed software development packages into their own programs in order to earn a certain amount of money, and these third-party companies turn to sell the data obtained from the applications to make profits, the report said. It’s hard for users to know if such software development packages are embedded in the application, because most privacy policies do not disclose this information. In an interview with many industry insiders, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that at present, there are almost no regulations restricting such transactions in the United States.
the report stressed that although many private enterprises in the U.S. advertising, marketing and other industries are engaged in the trading of location data, it is extremely unusual for enterprises closely associated with the US national security agencies to collect user location data directly. The paper also found that the services provided by anomalysix are similar to another company called Babel street, which provides social media monitoring services for US intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Babel street, a product called locatex, also provides customers with location information extracted from user applications. In fact, the founders of anomalysix previously worked in Babel street, responsible for the company’s relationships with the U.S. Department of defense, the Department of justice, the U.S. cyber command, and intelligence agencies.
according to court records, locatex adopted some opinions of U.S. government officials when it was designed, and was widely used by US military intelligence agencies after its development. Babel street also signed contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of justice, according to federal contract data. According to the report, the collected mobile phone location information can be used for “lifestyle” analysis to help understand and predict the habits and behaviors of intelligence targets.
Laura may, a law professor at Georgetown University, said: “what users don’t know is that when they install weather apps, game apps or any other seemingly innocuous apps, their private location data will be collected and sold. Obviously, that’s what’s going on, and it’s not transparent. “